Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) has a remarkable reputation as a liver tonic. It has traditionally been used for people seeking:
- Improved digestion of proteins & fats
- Relif from liver discomfort
- Hangover reduction
- Bowel function improvements
Proper liver function is vital to your overall health
In today's polluted environment, the liver is under a greater toxic burden than at any time in previous human history.
Milk Thistle's Traditional Uses are extensive and include: strengthening liver & gall bladder function, which in turn may improve digestion, particularly of proteins and fats. Milk Thistle has a reputation for improving malabsorption of nutrients.
Our livers are constantly assaulted by environmental pollutants, bio-toxins created as we break down our foods, to viral and bacterial challenges, any of which may contribute to impaired liver health. It is therefore small wonder that supporting this vital organ, may result in a greater sense of vitality, improved ability to cope with toxicity and even reduce hangovers.
The Active Components of Milk Thistle:
Research has revealed that Milk Thistle contains a range of phytochemicals which provide tremendous benefit to people experiencing poor liver health and detoxification ability.
Active ingredients include: 3% hepatoprotectant flavolignans: (silymarin, silydianin, silybin & silychristin). These work together to protect liver cells by making them less susceptible to the toxins the liver as an organ is working to break down. They have also been found to inhibit viral infection.
A major reason why people with weak liver & gallbladder function tend to suffer from poor digestion and malabsorption of nutrients, is a lack of sufficient bile production. Active chemicals in the Milk Thistle can stimulate bile production which may reverse this trend.
Milk Thistle's Sesquiterpene lactones, give the seeds their characteristic bitter taste. Bitter sastes stimulate bile production.
Milk Thistle's History
Ancient Greek and Arabian physicians have used the plant to stimulate the appetite & the digestive processes, to promote bile production, strengthen liver function & to treat poisoning, jaundice & even help treat hepatitis.
1- 2 Capsules with meals.
In clinical trials, milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report a laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating.
Milk thistle is not toxic and may be used continuously without observed side effects. It may be taken with other medicines, and because it helps the liver, it may also help reduce some of the toxic aspects of other medications. Always seek professional advice.
Further Milk Thistle information from other sources:
Common Names—milk thistle, Mary thistle, holy thistle. Milk thistle is sometimes called silymarin, which is actually a mixture of the herb's active components, including silybinin (also called silibinin or silybin).
Latin Name—Silybum marianum
What It Is Used For
Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It has traditionally been used in cases of liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. Other reproted uses include:
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Reducing insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who also have cirrhosis
How It Is Used
The active ingredients of Milk Thistle are found in the seeds. These are used to prepare capsules, extracts, and infusions (strong teas).
What the Science Says
Sadly with effective herbal remedies, there is little financial reward to be gained from large studies. The science behind the efficacy of these remedies is very real, while the scientific investigation always lags behind. None the less, the following tentative observations have thus far been gathered.
- There have been some studies of milk thistle on liver disease in humans, but these have been small. Some promising data have been reported, but study results at this time are mixed.
- Although some studies conducted outside the United States support claims of oral milk thistle to improve liver function, there have been flaws in study design and reporting. To date, there is no conclusive evidence to prove its claimed uses.
- Recent NCCAM-funded research includes a phase II study to better understand the use of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C. Additional research, cofunded by NCCAM and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, includes studies of milk thistle for chronic hepatitis C and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (liver disease that occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol).
- The National C**cer Institute and the National Institute of Nursing Research are also studying milk thistle.
Side Effects and Cautions
- In clinical trials, milk thistle generally has few side effects. Occasionally, people report a laxative effect, upset stomach, diarrhea, and bloating.
- Milk thistle can produce allergic reactions, which tend to be more common among people who are allergic to plants in the same family (for example, ragweed, chrysanthemum, marigold, and daisy).
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Milk Thistle: Effects on Liver Disease and Cirrhosis and Clinical Adverse Effects. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment no. 21. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2000. 01-E024.
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). In: Coates P, Blackman M, Cragg G, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2005:467–482.
- Milk thistle. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Accessed on July 3, 2007.
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), silymarin. Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed on June 28, 2007.
- Milk thistle fruit. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:257–263.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hepatitis C and Complementary and Alternative Medicine: 2003 Update. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Web site. Accessed on July 5, 2007.
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